Beyond the Great Mountains

A visual poem about China

Young, Ed (2005). Beyond the Great Mountains: A visual poem about China. Hong Kong: Chronicle Books.

Age level: K-2

Genre: Children's Literature

Topic/Theme: Chinese Culture, Picture Poetry

Awards: none found

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"A large scroll isn't a suitable format for a book, and even a fold-out, kind of a long accordion type of book seemed very expensive to produce, and not very practical for libraries. So I said to Victoria, if you don't think an accordion would work, maybe you can find some other way to do it. So Victoria, her crew, and Sara Gillingham, the book's designer, got very involved and finally found the perfect way to show this poem to the world. They developed this stepped kind of a book, where the whole poem becomes visible upon the first opening. Then when you open each page, the poem is revealed. Vertically, as it turned out, is also how Chinese is read—from top to bottom. It's just a beautiful thing... This is why I love the book so much—it has so much energy in it."

-Ed Young in an interview on the format of Beyond the Great Mountains

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Ed Young

Ed Young is primarily an illustrator, who believes that "there are things words do that pictures never can, and likewise, there are images that words can never describe." Following the Chinese tradition, he enjoys having the text and images work harmoniously together. He has illustrated over 80 books for children with his Chinese inspired brushwork, and has written 17 of the books himself. He is a Caldecott medalist who has been known to only get involved in projects that he finds challenging and moving.

Applicable Education Standards

RL.1.4 Identify words and phrases in stories or poems that suggest feelings or appeal to the senses.

RL.1.7 Use illustrations and details in a story to describe its characters, setting, or events.

RL.1.10 With prompting and support, read prose and poetry of appropriate complexity for grade 1.

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The students will each create a vertical, 5 page visual poem about where they are from, making sure to appeal to the senses.

The students will duplicate Chinese symbols as well as create a few of their own.

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Connection to Students

I think this book will impact our classroom in a positive way because by affirming the Chinese culture, not only are we affirming any students that may be from that country, we are also affirming the idea that having ties to other countries outside the U.S. is a positive and welcome trait in the classroom.

I would like to use this book to start a discussion of where everyone is from, and show how we can appreciate each other's stories and backgrounds.

This book can be used for teaching visual poetry as well as how to appreciate other countires and cultures.

I want this book to help students look at other countries, as well as other student's backgrounds, in an appreciative way. That they are looking to accept and understand one another in where they come from.

Culturally Relevant Examples


The pictures in this book team up with the words in a way that the poem would be unfinished if there was one without the other. Since Ed Young studies the traditions of Chinese paiting, these elegant paper-collages have a serene and harmonious feeling about them. It illustrates many aspects of what he finds special about China: from the Southern wine, to the popular Jade stone, the plains, bamboo, and great mountains. It really paints a picture that helps the reader appreciate the many different authentic dimensions of the country of China.
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Symbols and Calligraphy

Throughout the poetry of the book, Ed Young has incorporated Chinese symbols and their meanings as they relate to the page they are placed on. These symbols help to give the story depth and would spark interest and curiousity in young readers. On the page that describes the various things that grow in China, it is fascinating to see the Chinese symbols for tree and rice. I would love to use this book in a classroom and have the students replicate the symbols, so they can appreciate how much effort goes into writing each word. In the back of the book, it also shows how the Chinese letters have changed over time, in showing the ancient manuscript as well as the modern.


This book has a way of making the reader feel as if though they have just finished a morning tour around the misty and majestic mountains of China. There is a real appreciation of nature that is embedded all throughout the book, from appreiciating the animals to the plants that grow in China. One of my best friends was born and raised in Thailand, and her love of nature is very apparent and authentic to her native area. She always tells me that loving nature is a common characteristic in South East Asia, so I was happy to see that was displayed all throughout the poem.

Hayley Finch

EDEL 411

Section D